South Dakota Auditor Susan Kiepke writes column for National Association of Counties on harassment and abuse that rural county auditors face from election conspiracists

As opposed to the stories we hear out of Sioux Falls about their auditor, there are county auditors that are concerned with doing a good job and serving the public. And unfortunately, they face harassment from the people who spend too much time on facebook claiming election conspiracies where none exist.

There is a good story on the National Association of County Officials (NACO) website from Davison County Auditor, Susan Kiepke on the challenges that our auditors face as they try to run our elections in spite of election truthers, and the conspiracy minded who seem hell-bent on disrupting our elections and claiming evil election plots, because that’s what they read on the Internet. Despite many of those claims being completely obliterated in court:

When I started administering elections, I was able to use schools for polling places. I am no longer able to do so due to security concerns.

and..

I never know when folks will show up to try to convince our commissioners that the DS850 scanner and tabulator that we use to count ballots has a microchip in it that feeds information to Russia.

We have to dispel other misinformation. It has been alleged that CVRs (Cast Vote Records), as well as audit logs aren’t proprietary, which they currently are in South Dakota.

We’ve been accused of not being bonded properly, not being insured properly, not being transparent.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The people who come in aren’t always calm, hence the request for security.

For the first time since running elections, I have requested security be posted at all polling places from 6 a.m. until approximately 8 p.m. or whenever the last poll worker leaves the polling place. I have also requested to have security at the courthouse where ballots are counted the evenings of the 2024 elections.

and..

I hate that elections have gotten so negative. I used to look forward to them. They were fun and people were happy. Now people come to my office and verbally attack myself and my staff.

The good news in all of this is election officials who haven’t bought into the misinformation, have bonded together. In South Dakota, we rely heavily on one another to testify in front of legislatures, to lean on one another when we are scrutinized and to embrace one another’s strengths.

We believe strongly that our elections are run with integrity, honesty, professionalism, knowledge and transparency.

Read the entire column here.

Interestingly, at the moment there is a bill making its way through the legislature – Senate Bill 20 – which establishes a crime of threatening or intimidating an election official or election worker.  With accounts like the above, it’s shocking that it only passed the senate on a 21-12 basis. It should have been unanimous.

Hopefully, it can make it past the House to be signed into law. County Auditors at least deserve the protection of the law if they face threats and violence for doing the job of our democracy.

Brookings GOP Lunch from 2/19 with State’s Attorney Dan Nelson; Meth, facebook, and campaign returns

Attended the GOP Luncheon in Brookings this last Monday to check the pulse of what locals are asking about when it comes to Law Enforcement, and to hear from our local State’s Attorney Dan Nelson.  Great and informative talk from Dan on a number of topics, as he spoke about how the office handles conflicts of interest, working with the Attorney General’s office, and the crimes that impact the community.

Especially in terms of the questions from the audience, meth is a huge concern, and how it is getting into communities. He answered questions about how anymore most of it comes into the country up from Mexico by cartels who produce it and bring it in. It’s also of higher quality than several years back when the meth crisis started, as it’s produced on a larger scale and more highly refined than the stuff that people used to make in-state in the trunks of their cars.

The meth discussion dominated nearly the entire Q&A session. Although, I had to ask for my own clarification – what happened to the State’s Attorney’s facebook page updates of arrests and prosecutions? They once were constant updates and they literally went away a while back.

Dan explained that aside from being a staff member or two down, this great source of information and open government started being abused by people on facebook who were trying to not just provide their own narrative, but in some cases people were posting false information and false narratives about crimes actively under investigation that were causing issues as the local investigators were trying to solve them, so he made the decision to pause the updates until a solution could be found.

What other things came up? Aside from signing petitions for a couple of candidates, I did hear from one person who informed me that Matt Wagner, who had announced he was running for D8 House, and then suspended his campaign, may be “un-suspending” his campaign, as he had dealings with SDSU which may have been a conflict, and now with the new Supreme Court interpretation may no longer be in conflict allowing him to run.

While not at the lunch, I did hear earlier on Monday that Brookings County Commissioner Ryan Krogman, who has been serving on the commission for 12 years now, is not running again, leaving an open seat. With the Krogman name as well know in Brookings as it is, that takes a genuinely nice man and the toughest competitor out of the contest, making one of the two seats in play this year a wide open contest.

That’s the local 411 for Brookings politics.. stay tuned for more to come.

Gov. Noem Announces National Guard Deployment to Southern Border

Gov. Noem Announces National Guard Deployment to Southern Border

Fifth Time that South Dakota National Guard has Deployed to the Border

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that she will deploy South Dakota National Guard troops to the southern border later this spring. This will be the fifth time that the South Dakota National Guard has deployed to the southern border to assist in border security efforts during the Noem Administration.

“The border is a warzone, so we’re sending soldiers,” said Governor Noem. “These soldiers’ primary mission will be construction of a wall to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, drug cartels, and human trafficking into the United States of America.”

This deployment answers the call from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to help Texas respond to the crisis at the southern border. 60 South Dakota National Guard soldiers will deploy to the southern border on a rolling basis over a three-month period. Further specifics about the unit’s mission may not be answerable due to security considerations.

Last month, Governor Noem and the South Dakota legislature joined together to hold the first joint session in the nation responding to Texas’ efforts to secure the border in the face of threats from the Biden Administration. Governor Noem delivered a special address to the joint session of the legislature; shortly thereafter, the legislature became the first in the nation to pass a resolution of support for Texas’ efforts and for states’ rights.

In her address to the joint session of the legislature, Governor Noem highlighted a desire for different rules of engagement if South Dakota were to again deploy National Guard soldiers to the border: “Our troops have been hampered by federal restrictions when they’ve been deployed to the border in the past. I don’t want South Dakota soldiers to facilitate an invasion – I want them to stand up and stop it. So we are talking to Texas about what rules of engagement can look like to make sure that happens.” This request has been met by the new primary mission of constructing a border wall.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Governor Noem was the first governor to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border at the request of Governor Abbott.

December represented the first month in American history that border encounters totaled more than 300,000. Monthly border encounters have increased by 452% since President Biden took office. Total overdoses have increased by almost 20% across America in that time period as a result of the drug trafficking at the southern border.

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SDGOP adds Reggie Rhoden to staff as new SDGOP Executive Director, as Central Committee members seek bylaws to purge themselves of legislators and lobbyists

In the midst of all the SDGOP chaos over the last couple of weeks, one item that has gone quietly under the radar is that the party has hired on Reggie Rhoden as the new executive director for the organization.

Reggie, who recently had stints at the Secretary of State’s office as election coordinator under Monae Johnson in Feb of 2023, and was Deputy Auditor in Meade County from November 2023 until recently, certainly has exposure to the campaign trail as the son of Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden, who has long served in the South Dakota State legislature before taking the #2 position under Governor Kristi Noem.

It may be a bumpy road for the younger Rhoden, as he assumes the reins of a party organization focused on purging Republicans from Reagan’s big tent.

Aside from their attempts to silence me at the last Central Committee meeting, factions within the party are also seeking bylaw changes to strip the body of experienced people who know how to win elections. As submitted to the Central Committee by purveyors of the party purge:

State legislators and paid lobbyists shall be ineligible from holding any State Executive Board position.”

This measure currently proposed to the SDGOP Central Committee and under review by the bylaws committee, perfectly illustrates the dilemma that the South Dakota Republican Party finds itself in as the inmates seek to take over the asylum.  Should this bylaw measure pass, it would act to immediately strip the state Republican Party of it’s Chair (Sen. John Wiik), Vice Chair (Rep. Mary Fitzgerald), and Treasurer (Pierre attorney & lobbyist, Brett Koenecke), leaving only the treasurer, Marilyn Oakes to run the party. It would also knock out a few other exec board members, such as former chair and current lobbyist Dan Lederman.

In their attempt to bar legislators, the party would be stripping itself of being led by those who have skin in the game, and over the past two decades were a major part of turning the tide from just competing against Democrats – who held up to all three federal offices  – into the GOP being the solely dominant political organization in the state. This came about as a result of the efforts of many chairmen & women, but you can’t deny the influence that legislators had in the success of the party.

Certainly, congratulations are due to Reggie Rhoden in his new position in leading the GOP.

Unfortunately, it comes at a time when there is a faction of the party hell-bent at returning the Republican Party to the bad-old days when we used to lose a few too many elections.

After starting his run for Senate as a Democrat, Thomas Werner now running as a Republican in District 15

Remember how I had writted about Thomas Werner running as a Democrat for District 15 State Senate?

Introduction:

Welcome to the official campaign website of Thomas Werner. As a conservative candidate running in a predominantly Democrat district,  Thomas Werner is committed to representing the diverse needs and  values of our community. With a vision to bridge the partisan divide,  Thomas Werner is running as a Democrat for State Senate, bringing a fresh perspective and common-sense solutions to the challenges we face.

Read that here.

Apparently, that’s off, as Werner has now come back and is running as a Republican.

Introduction:

Welcome to the official campaign website of Thomas Werner. As a conservative candidate running in a predominantly Democrat district, Thomas Werner is committed to representing the diverse needs and values of our community. With a vision to bridge the partisan divide, Thomas Werner is running as a Republican for State Senate, bringing a fresh perspective and common-sense solutions to the challenges we face.

Read that updated website here.

And actually, if we’re splitting hairs, it’s technically not a predominantly Democrat district anymore, as D15 has 7320 Republican to 6638 Democrats.  But glad to see this confusion is resolved.

Senate bill 13 needs to pass the Senate tomorrow. Unless we want to continue insulting voters.

Did I mention yet that I am involved in a primary this year?

I am running for precinct committeeman, and for the third or fourth election in a row, I have an opponent. Same guy always files for the same office as I do, for the privilege of representing our precinct at the South Dakota Republican Party state convention.

Which really makes the argument against down ticket statewide officials not standing for primary elections kind of fall flat for me. Why is the office of precinct committeeman  – always dead last on the ballot – worthy of a primary in front of the voters for my chunk of the city of Brookings, but Attorney General or Secretary of State is not deserving of similar scrutiny by the voters at large?

Senate Bill 13, an act to revise the process for nominating candidates for the offices of Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State is up for debate on the Senate floor tomorrow, after passing unanimously 9-0 out of the Senate State Affairs committee this last week

While it seems that we’ve heard this a couple of times in the legislature already this year, and this is the second time the Senate has had the opportunity to debate and discuss the measure, that being said, it is a measure that deserves far more serious consideration than it may have received over the course of the legislative session.

In its prior incarnations, the proposals to change how South Dakota political parties select a couple of the offices that are currently chosen at party conventions have been subjected to conjecture and scare tactics which are utter nonsense as some try to preserve the current way of doing things.

Currently there are 301,869 registered Republicans in South Dakota. So, at least 301,000 are disenfranchised from selecting the primary candidates for their party for most state offices under the current system.

The arguments against it absolutely crumble under their own weight.

Some are naïve enough to declare that the group of delegates who gather at political conventions are performing some vital vetting process that the poor uneducated voters of South Dakota are incapable of doing on their own.

As an active participant, I could tell you that’s a ridiculous, and kind of insulting, notion. Convention delegates are just versed in how to fill out a piece of paper, and we like to participate in state politics, and go to the convention.

The act of putting an address on, filling out the precinct number, and signing a one page form does not grant us any greater insight or wisdom than the public at large has.

Another argument that opponents like to throw out, is that big money interests would somehow be able to sway the elections for nefarious ends. Sometimes they even bring up George Soros as a bogeyman.

I can’t help but roll my eyes at this. If this was the case, then, why are these bad actors only discussed in terms of the primary election? I would think that they would find more fertile ground in the general election. But where are they? They never seem to appear.

It might have something to do with the fact that these offices don’t really have people throwing out cash left and right to elect constitutional offices.

If there were all these dark monied special interests ready to pounce on our down ticket races, I suspect our current Secretary of State, Monae Johnson, would be reporting more than $324 in her campaign account after she loaned it $1500, as I posted about recently.

Ultimately, it comes down to a question of whether we trust the voters of our political parties or not.

301,869 Republicans and 145,449 Democrats, do we trust them to select the candidates who will represent their parties in the fall elections? I do. And I think we’ve gone past the time to think that individuals don’t have an interest in selecting the candidates who will represent their party.

As I tried to communicate in my testimony to the Senate state affairs committee on Senate Bill 13: Don’t be afraid of the voters! Don’t patronize them by pretending that a group of a few hundred people are smarter than a group of 300,000.

Voters as a group are smart people and acting together they make good decisions. If voters at large can choose their coroner, their county auditor, legislators and governor in a primary they are capable of choosing their Attorney General and Secretary of State the same way as well.

Unless we want to continue insulting voters.

Rep. Tyler Tordsen announces re-election campaign

From my mailbox:


I want to start out by thanking you for your support, encouragement, and engagement. You were one of my earliest supporters who believed in me, invested in my first race, or have kept up with me since. That’s why I’m coming to you first with some exciting news.

I’m excited to share that I’m running for re-election to the House of Representatives in District 14! I’ve learned a lot in my first term and am proud of my track record and legislative success. More importantly, the continued encouragement and support from my family and friends makes serving the people of southeast Sioux Falls possible. It’s not easy being away from my wife and my two growing boys for the nine-week legislative session, but they’re also a big part of the “why” I choose to serve. Keeping our state strong for our next generation guides me and the decisions I make.

Tyler, Erika, Emmett (age 3), and Atlas (age 1)

When I first announced for the legislature I promised to keep our people as my number one priority. I also told you I’d focus on promoting a vibrant economy along with building up strong communities and healthy families. In keeping with that promise, as a freshman legislator I carried five bills last year and all five were signed into law. These efforts included strengthening our elections, fixing outdated regulations, and a signature “workforce freedom” legislation to recognize professional and occupational licenses to assist in our workforce shortage. I was honored to be recognized by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as one of the top 50 Under 50 lawmakers in the nation promoting conservative policies at the state level, and earlier this year was named a Legislative Champion by the Foundation for Government Accountability. The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce also named me one of their Community Champions for 2023 for maintaining a 100% voting record.

Last summer, I was selected for a National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL) fellowship on youth homelessness which spurred legislation I’m moving through the process this year. This session I’m also championing legislation that would address child food insecurity, improve our process of electing statewide offices, and a bill to recognize some of our nation’s biggest heroes. In short, you sent me to Pierre to work hard, respect the people, and get results. In my first term I’ve done just that, but there’s still more work to be done.

I am looking forward to getting back out and earning the vote of my neighbors again and hope I can count on your continued support and encouragement so we can run a successful campaign for re-election. If given the opportunity to keep serving, I promise to do more of the same. Help kill the bad bills and do all I can to pass the good ones. Keeping the focus on South Dakota families, our next generation and addressing real problems.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or just want to catch up, give me a call at (605) 610-8884 or shoot me a message at [email protected]anytime. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your friendship and continued support!

Sincerely,

Tyler Tordsen

Election denier Rick Weible organized a PAC for recruiting candidates, but spending it’s money on “election anomaly” group.

I hadn’t caught this in the PAC filings that have been coming in until now, but a political action committee created by one of the most visible election deniers in the state appears to be largely bankrolled by the same family that provided significant funding to the failed congressional campaign of Taffy Howard in 202o.

In April of 2023, Rick Weible of Elkton, formerly of Minnesota, created a Political Action Committee called “Save South Dakota,” with the stated purpose that the PAC was created toHelp recruit, promote, support republican candidates that will abide by SD GOP platform principles.”  Which I’m sure are GOP platform principles as interpreted by Rick.   Fast forward a few months, and the group had it’s name at the top of a flyer was declaring Weible a “South Dakota Hero” for some logical reason no one has been able to discern to date.

Now that the deadline for Political Action Committee filings have passed, we have a slight window into who is funding this silliness. According to the End of Year report filed by the PAC with the South Dakota Secretary of State..

Save South Dakota PAC FY 23 EOY Report by Pat Powers on Scribd

Dave Assman, Cathy Assman, & Darla Assman all kicked $2000 into the Weible led PAC, with Greg Assman dropping in another $1000. You’ll see most of them also donated significantly to the Taffy Howard congressional effort. The itemized donations are rounded out by Weible putting in $500 to the PAC that declared him “a hero,” and despite their spelling error, I believe State Representative Tina Mulally was in for another $410.24.

What did they spend it on? Despite their claimed mission of electing candidates, it appears that they used this group as their front group for buying the state voter list, consulting with an outside group, MK Analytical.

According to their website, MK Analytical…

MK Analytical is a small team that has established itself within the Election Integrity Community as the leading company that has been providing accurate and focused lists that has proven to be an effective tool in uncovering anomalies associated with this Country’s Elections. The MK Analytical Network has helped connect Election Integrity investigation teams from many different states with the purpose of sharing data analysis, techniques and uncovering new anomalies that other states can investigate in their state.  

Read that here.

So, is this PAC focused on sending the voting list off to an analyst for the “election integrity community,” as they’ve declared themselves to be.. or are they recruiting candidates?  This seems to be heading down the rabbit hole, leaving everyone to wonder if the group is focusing on spending other people’s money on candidates, or if they’re spending it on conspiracies?

The group moved forward into 2024 with $4801.11 in the bank, so it remains to be seen what, if anything, they’re going to be doing to further their declared mission.